Software company used for contact tracing in NM involved in lawsuit in Texas | KOB 4

Software company used for contact tracing in NM involved in lawsuit in Texas

Patrick Hayes
Updated: October 10, 2020 10:38 AM
Created: October 09, 2020 09:56 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- A new lawsuit in Texas is raising some questions in New Mexico about contact tracing and COVID-19.

New Mexico is currently using their own employees to contact people who may have been exposed to the virus.

However, New Mexico made a deal with a company from Texas, MTX, to use their software to help gather the information and make calls. 

The deal is worth more than $7 million.

Republican lawmakers in Texas are suing Gov. Greg Abbott for giving the company a $300 million contract without proper vetting.

"Obviously, this is a pandemic situation and a new situation for a lot of people, so I understand that it's a challenge to react and do so in a way that's effective," said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a conservative think tank. 

Gessing said governments need to do their research before signing such a large deal.

Similar to Texas, New Mexico's $7 million contract did not go through the normal bidding process because it was an emergency procurement.

"They actually reached out to us, but we had been talking to other states that had been utilizing them, and they are actually in a lot of different states right now," said John Salazar, secretary of the Department of Information Technology. "They're doing this not just for Texas and New Mexico. I'd say they're doing 10-15 other states as well."

Regardless, the Salazar said the state is satisfied with the software.

"They're well known. They develop good software. They're a software development company," He said. "That's what they're good at. I think they stretched their resources a little bit in Texas and tried doing something they've never done before and maybe they're not as successful there but as far as software development, they're very, very good."

Gessing believes contracts should be vetted, especially during a pandemic.

"A $7.5 million contract to do contact tracing, and do that effectively, is an important part of the pandemic response, and I think the findings here raise some serious questions about the company the State of New Mexico is dealing with, and whether those resources are being used in ways that actually make sense for helping New Mexicans deal with this pandemic," he said.

When asked if there had been any problems regarding contact tracing, a spokesperson for the Department of Health confirmed a delay in reporting numbers during September. 

However, the spokesperson said the problem was not related to MTX. 

“There was an occasion in September when a number of cases were added to the wrong queue leading to a delay in reporting test results. The specific cases consisted of people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were unable to be reached by any of the contact information they provided. The error was discovered and everyone among that group was either contacted directly to let them know of their test result, or every effort was made to find contact information for them. Moving the data into the wrong queue for contact investigators and tracers was a human error, and it has been thoroughly addressed. 
The issue also speaks to how important it is for New Mexicans to provide accurate contact information during the COVID-19 screening process. Everyone needs to provide ways for us to contact them. Those who don’t put their health and that of those around them at unnecessary risk," the spokesperson said.

KOB 4 reached out to MTX, but they denied an on-camera interview and failed to respond to questions.

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